Filtering can be appropriate

McDonald's has blocked certain gay-themed websites from its recently launched free Wi-Fi service in New Zealand and has been accused of homophobia.

McDonald's has blocked certain gay-themed websites from its recently launched free Wi-Fi service in New Zealand and has been accused of homophobia.

McDonald's rejects such accusations and I believe they are right, as many heterosexual sites with adult content are blocked too.

Gay groups do have a right to be concerned, but McDonald's also has a right to set its own standards as to what is "acceptable".

Now, many organisations, such as employers, schools, web hosting companies and internet service providers have "acceptable use" policies for the internet. Internet New Zealand has a briefing paper on the issue. Many such policies cover things like sending spam and viruses, blocking distracting social media and auction sites, and the inevitable adult content also features.

As a family restaurant, McDonald's cannot have customers accessing sites other customers might look across at and find offensive. It cannot have the kids accessing such sites themselves, even if by accident. Thus, given that McDonald's is hosting the free Wi-Fi itself, it is no surprise adult content is blocked.

Now, other organisations will have their own acceptable use policies which might allow that content. And that's fine.

When I use the free internet in the library, I have to click in a box that I will meet the library's own "acceptable use" policy. I was surprised, however, to read Auckland library does not block websites.

It may be that the new Auckland Council takes a more politically correct line, judging such content not offensive. Maybe its library users aren't bothered. Nonetheless, I am sure the council will have considered the feelings of its customers.

Perhaps McDonald's will need to tweak what it finds "acceptable" to the individual restaurant level based on its clientele, but as long as companies base their filtering on grounded reasoning, I don't have a problem with it.

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